Heat forward Udonis Haslem started in place of Shane Battier for the second game in a row Saturday, but coach Erik Spoelstra made it clear that the experiment might be short-lived.
“It’s not in cement,” Spoelstra said. “I think they’re both veteran enough. They’ve both been in our system. They both feel comfortable either way. Basically they’ll just be flip-flopping positions.”
The switch didn’t have the desired effect. The Hornets outscored the Heat 32-31 in the first quarter. New Orleans was 4 of 5 from three-point range.
Spoelstra started Haslem to begin the 2012 playoffs, but Battier was the starter for most of the postseason. Starting Haslem is not an indication the Heat is moving away from its small-ball approach. Battier is still recovering from a knee injury, and the hope was that Haslem would give the Heat a boost of energy defensively in the first quarter.
The boost didn’t come until the second quarter, though. With Joel Anthony in the lineup, the Heat pieced together a 25-4 run to blow the game open.
After allowing 18 three-pointers to the Knicks on Thursday, the Heat focused on perimeter defense during Friday’s practice and Saturday morning’s shootaround. Against the Knicks, Haslem had 10 points in the first half while Battier went scoreless in the game and finished with four fouls in nine minutes.
“We’ve almost overtalked it in the last 24 hours,” Spoelstra said. “We know it’s there. We know we’re capable of it. It’s about consistency, and at this point it’s just about doing it.”
Spoelstra reviewed defensive strategies and positioning during Saturday’s shootaround but stressed to the team “it’s more about our effort, disposition, those things even more than execution — all of those intangibles, our energy.”
Against the Hornets, Haslem matched up against Ryan Anderson to begin the game. Anderson 4 of 5 from the field and 2 of 2 from three-point range
Haslem’s effort isn’t the only reason for the switch. Spoelstra said one of the benefits of joggling the lineup is unlocking “some of the other layers … on the backside of the rotation.”
Rashard Lewis started three games in place of Battier after Battier strained his left knee. Lewis didn’t play against the Knicks or was buried on the depth chart against the Hornets as well. Lewis provided little offensively and defensively during his stint as a starter. He had five points in three games.
“He knows he has to be ready,” Spoelstra said.
The Hornets are considering changing their nickname to the Pelicans, which would better represent a team from New Orleans. The suggested name change has been met with mixed reviews.
“It doesn’t sound right to me, but who am I to say?” LeBron James said. “I heard it’s their state bird. It just doesn’t have that ring just yet.”
Dwyane Wade did not mince his words. He called it a “terrible” name. Haslem was more diplomatic.
“If they want to represent their state with the pelicans then so be it,” Haslem said. “I ain’t going to get on their bird.”